A young woman has been left with over 20 stitches and a hefty medical bill of nearly $4,000 after being bitten by a sea lion while swimming off the coast of Western Australia.
Elena Precillia, 25, was swimming at Seals' Rocks, in Geraldton, with a raft of sea lions when one lunged for the bottom of her leg.
After being told by locals that the sea lions were friendly, and being assured that many tourists often swam there, Elena and her friend Mauro Signoretti, decided to explore.
But when the backpackers returned the next day for a third swim with the animals, Elena got an unexpected, and ultimately very expensive fright. One of the animals attacked her, resulting in her needing an operation and a course of antibiotics to prevent infection from the sea lion's bacteria.
Ms Precillia, who is currently travelling through Western Australia, said, “The day before and until I was attacked was unreal.”
“But all of a sudden, all I saw was a sea lion in front of me, and when I turned my back, he bit me.
“It was on the back of my right leg, and straight away I could see he had drawn blood.”
The tourists didn’t think the animals were dangerous, or that a tour guide was needed to swim in the area.
“Locals had told us that the sea lions were friendly, and that many went there without a tour guide or anything like that,” she said.
“It was an amazing experience, as they liked to dance with us, playing and jumping out of the water.”
But when a sea lion decided to have a taste of the backpacker, she was in a state of shock.
“The pain was shock - I couldn't really feel thanks to the adrenaline, but I couldn't swim to get out of the water.”
“I was in panic, unable to breathe well and was terrified as there were still four or five of the sea lions around us.
“We had to jump to the rocks where the sea lions were leaving or swim all the way back - but after the attack, swimming seemed safer so that's what we did.”
Ms Precillia’s friend, Mauro, had to swim taking her with him back to shore before they sped to nearby Geraldton Regional Hospital, where she had to undergo an operation to clean her leg and prevent any infection.
There was a high risk of infection due to the sea lion's rare bacteria, and Ms Precillia had to spend about $3,800 to be properly treated.
“I ended up needing over 20 stitches, and I have to go back to the hospital in ten days' time to see what needs to be done next,” she said.
“I'll definitely never go back to swim with sea lions and I will never recommend to someone to do it.
“They are still wild animals, and in such close proximity, we never know what can happen.”
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